Strep A: New UK protocols issued as pharmacists tackle penicillin supply | Strep a | Daily News Byte

Strep A: New UK protocols issued as pharmacists tackle penicillin supply |  Strep a

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Five new Severe Shortage Protocols (SSPs) have been issued to pharmacists in an attempt to overcome penicillin supply problems caused by the increasing number of Strep A infections across the UK.

The government introduced SSPs for three penicillin drugs earlier this week and has now increased the total number to give pharmacists the flexibility to supply alternative antibiotics or formulations of penicillin.

The move comes amid rising demand for penicillin, which is commonly used to treat strep A infections such as scarlet fever and impetigo.

The number of scarlet fever cases is triple the normal and some pharmacists are experiencing temporary and local supply problems.

Professor Susan Hopkins, chief medical adviser at the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “The latest with scarlet fever and strep infections is that we’ve seen just over 7,500 notifications of scarlet fever, and that’s probably an underestimate. .

“We’ve had a lot of reports in the last few days so we expect there will be more. Which is almost three times more than the same time in normal season. The last bad season we had was in 2017-18.

It is understood that health officials do not believe that the number of scarlet fever infections has peaked yet, suggesting that more deaths are likely.

This upward trend can also be seen in cases of invasive group A strep (GAS), the most severe and uncommon form of the infection.

Hopkins said the cases were “more than half of what we normally see in an average season”, with 111 cases among children aged one to four and 74 among children aged five to nine.

While the latest figures show that at least 19 children have now died across the UK from invasive Strep A disease, she confirmed that the majority of children affected had a mild illness.

An “open mind” is being kept about the reasons behind the spike.

Stressing that “we haven’t agreed on anything yet”, she said: “I think we’re seeing that very early on in the season.

“We have a lot of children who haven’t had this infection in the past three years, so there are more vulnerable children who haven’t started to develop their immunity to these infections, which we get over and over again throughout our lives.

“We are always looking for other reasons. Have the bacteria changed? Are there any other changes that are causing this?”

All children aged two and three are eligible for the flu nasal spray vaccine to reduce the risk of infection, although take-up for both ages is currently below 40% – below the level reached at this point last winter.

According to the latest data, only 37.4% of two-year-old children and 39.5% of three-year-old children have received the vaccine so far.

Hopkins said there were lower group A strep infections in areas where children had been vaccinated compared to areas where the rollout had not yet begun.

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